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Thompson Benchmark

 

On our way to Vail, Colorado for a wedding, Tom Patton wanted to stop to see the famous petroglyphs and pictographs at Thompson Springs along I-70 north of Moab.  Lo and behold, there is a cheeseburger summit near the Thompson Springs exit.  We stopped in Green River to pick up a cheeseburger and were able to drive to near the top of the summit.

 

Just in case we might not know that we are here.

 

Then on to see the awe-inspiring pictographs and petroglyphs drawn by the ancient ones:  Barrier, Fremont, and Ute cultures.

Pointless Pitt and Page Hill

This was kind of a pointless hike, as it was way too long with not much payoff.  If you had the right kind of vehicle, you could easily have driven to the top of this summit, but I ended up walking about 4 miles each way.  It's not very scenic by Uinta standards, either.

FR 107 is a just a little bit down Highway 150 from the Shady Dell campground, and I was able to drive up to the intersection with FR 170.  After that, the road degenerates so that you wouldn't want to drive it in a sedan.

The road to the summit goes on a long loop around a ridge, and I couldn't find a trail that just went straight up to the not terrifically high "peak".  In retrospect, I probably should have just bushwacked my way through the woods, but I followed the road almost all the way, only peeling off towards the end.  The trees are not particularly dense, and it was very easy to just head uphill.  I roamed around for a considerable amount of time without finding a benchmark, but I was able to find a high point where I could consume my homemade cheeseburger.

Looking over the edge, in the general direction of my car, I noted a steep rockfall, which looked navigable, and a long flat stretch of forest that seemed like it would be easy to cross.  This was preferable to the long road home, so I decided to uncharacteristically be adventurous and give it a shot.  As you can see in the picture below, the fall colors are just starting to develop in the area.

This plan was a success, although it did not end up saving me any time, as it took awhile to carefully make my way down the loose boulders.  I was especially careful, as there was no cell phone service and I didn't have a knife with me in the event that I had to deal with a trapped limb. Later, walking through the forest below, I did notice some large paw prints in the mud that are probably from bears, but no live animals were seen.  

Cardiff Peak by Mistake

Having worked over the weekend, I concluded that it would be OK to play hooky from work on a Monday morning to enjoy the outdoors.  After a couple weeks of relatively easy hikes in the Uintas I decided it was time to try something a bit more strenuous closer to home.  So, I set off for Flagstaff Peak, billed as a short, but steep hike.  I easily located the trailhead near Alta and started up the road.  Which was steep.  However, in a pattern that is becoming all too familiar, I took a wrong turn at some point and ended up standing on a ridge looking at what I guessed was Flagstaff mountain with no sign of a feasible path to the summit.  Adding to my discomfort was the unanticipated hail, wind and cold.  However, rather than give up, I noticed that there was another peak on the other side of the ridge with some sort of structure on top. This one looked kind of doable, so I headed in that direction, even though this was not a comfortable trail, as it traverses a very steep hillside with not so great footing.  I resisted the temptation to wait out the rain in this cave just before the trail looped around a rocky outcropping.  

After looping around to the other side of the summit, the trail got worse.  Despite my nervousness, I was able to circle around the peak and find a route to the top where I managed to eat my cheeseburger in what was now a steady cold rain.  There were signs that the views from this peak into Big Cottonwood canyon are spectacular, but I could only catch a glimpse through the fog and mist.  Eventually, I figured out that I was on Cardiff Peak, easily recognizable (in retrospect) by the weather station on the top. 

Cardiff Peak has been conquered by Cheeseburger Summitteers previously, in the winter, which while beyond my skill set, probably has its advantages for experienced skiers, because the footing around the summit is pretty dicey for hiking when bare. All lose rocks and dirt with not much to hold on to.  I had some trouble finding my way back down the way I had ascended and I would definately not recommend this as a solo hike. 

Once I made it back around by the cave, it was relatively easy going to the base, where I resolved to try Flagstaff again after consulation with someone who knows their way around the area.

Wolf Creek Summit - A personal best by the side of the highway

Having attained unprecedent success by consuming 4 cheeseburgers on summits in a single morning (and all before 10:30 AM, I might add) I still had 1 cheeseburger left.  As I drove down Highway 35 back in the direction of Kamas, there was the sign for Wolf Creek Summit, previously conquered by In-N-Out bURGEr years ago.  But, I had a 5th cheeseburger burning a hole in my cooler, so I pulled over for the photo op (which I apparently took incompetantly, missing part of the sign).   Thus shattering all my previous records for summits in a single day.  A record that was accomplished with no more than an actually 60 to 90 minutes of actual hiking, producing a somewhat unfavorable calorie to exercise ration.  This personal record is likely to stand for quite awhile, as I doubt the stars will align this well in the future.

And perhaps the greatest triumph of the day was an entire drive back to Kamas without once getting stuck behind an RV going 15 MPH under the speed limit.

Wolf Benchmark - An easy number 4 for the morning

From Tree Benchmark, it was less them a five minute walk over to Wolf Benchmark.  This summit actually had a benchmark I could find, and there are signs that it is heavily used -- old campfires, fresh tire tracks, discarded beer cans, etc.

I ate my 4rth cheeseburger here and ambled down the road back to my car.

Tree Benchmark - Cracking number 3 for the first time

Having executed my plans flawlessly so far this particular morning, I headed down Highway 35 to see if I could break the curse that had so far prevented me from success beyond 2 summits in a single trip. Right around the corner from Wolf Creek Campground, I easily located FR 174, heading off into another beautiful Uinta area.  The road was in excellent shape, and it was not far before I could identify Tree and Wolf Benchmarks by the pattern of trees visible on the satellite photos I had meticulously studied earlier.  Both summits are on the same ridge, and it would probably be possible to drive even a standard car up to the top of Wolf Benchmark.  But I started off on Tree Benchmark via footpower.

Alas, this was another summit without a benchmark, at least that I could find, but I ate my 3rd cheeseburger in what seemed to be the right place and set off towards Wolf Summit on a very obvious trail along the ridge.

Camp Benchmark - Lucky guess

After my success with Wolf Creek Peak, I headed back to Wolf Creek Campground to attempt Camp Benchmark, which appeared to be a steep climb without a visible trail right next to Highway 35 near the entrance to the campground.  The photo below shows the summit as it appears from the campground, with my cell phone camera making it look much farther away than it really is.  I assumed that I would have to just trudge up the slopes through the underbrush, a prospect that made me a bit nervous as I would be in full view of everyone in the campground and on the highway if anything embarrassing occured.  Like, for example, I lost my footing and rolled down the hill.

As I drove down FR 091 on my way back to the campground I noticed what seemed like it could be the summit off to the side of the road about a mile or two before the campground.  Could it be that I had actually driven up the backside and the summit was just a quick stroll across this relatively level open area?  

There was actually a dirt road, FR 572, heading in the right direction, but it looked kind of dicey, so I pulled over to the side and set off on foot.  This turned out to be overly conservative, as after the first couple feet, FR 572 is actually in such good shape that you could have driven pretty much any vehicle right up to the edge of the summit.  There are in fact, a bunch of campsites along the ridge. It was a pleasant enough stroll in any event, and not as far as it looks, since again, my cell phone camera does weird things with perspective.  

Upon arriving at the edge, I found that I was clearly in the right place, but even after wandering around for 15 minutes, I never did find the benchmark.  So, I gave myself a pat on the back for finally having a hunch that turned out to be right, ate my 2nd cheeseburger of the morning on the highest point I could find, and returned to the car for my next attempt.  

Wolf Creek Peak - If at first you don't succeed ......

Having failed to locate Wolf Creek Peak last month, I decided to give it another try, as well to attempt 4 other summits in the nearby vicinity. Typically, my plans to be ambitious have ended badly, with a track record of dismal failure whenever I try to do more than 2 in one trip, but hope springs eternal.  So, I carefully studied various maps and satellite images from Google Maps before setting off on this trip, with limited expectations.  

As it turns out, with carefull preparation I was able to easily locate Wolf Creek Peak by following FR 091 starting at Wolf Creek Campground as it climbed up and looped around into the mountains.  I did have to chicken out with my driving as I approached the summit due to the deteriorating quality of the road, and backed into a vacant campsite area to walk the rest of the way.  This turned out to be only about a 1/2 mile, and the summit was obvious.  Upon locating the benchmark (which is rather beaten up, as benchmarks go), I consumed my first cheeseburger of the day, which I had prepared the day before.  Instead of my traditional McDonalds products, I had made some smaller homemade versions in recognition of the perhaps overly optimistic possibilty that I would be consuming 5 cheeseburgers in one morning.

The view was excellent, and it turns out that if I had walked another mile or so down the road, I could have knocked of Pass Benchmark as well.  But instead I headed back to the car to find Camp Benchmark.

Burgi Hill

Following my success with Memorial Hill, it was down the road in search of Burgi Hill.  This, it turns out, is in an under- construction high end housing development. I was able to find a trailhead and place to park just before the sign saying that the road is private and no public parking for the proletariat.  The path up to the top was clear, with an overgrown road, now blocked by a wooden fence. 

The trip up was quick, but arduous, as it was quite steep.  I hustled up, wolfed down my second not so exciting MacDonalds cheeseburger and raced off in seach of what was to be the real hike of the day, which was Phosphate Hill and The Peak, two summits apparently right next to each other off of the road up to Guardsman Pass. 

This turned out to be a dismal failure, as I was never able to find a trailhead.  At one point, I thought I had succeeded, and set off up what looked to be Phosphate Hill, but ended up fighting my way through trees and dense underbrush.  Eventually, despite gaining quite a bit of altitude, I gave up, as my legs were getting rather severely scratched and I had no idea where I was going.  At least I was able to find my car.  So Phosphate Hill and The Peak remain to be conquered.  By way of consolation, the drive home over Guardsman Pass was certainly scenic.

Memorial Hill

I originally planned to try and give another shot to finding Wolf Creek Peak up in the Uintas this day, but there was a threat for thunderstorms so instead I thought I would try some easy summits in Midway, UT.  The first on the list was Memorial Hill.  This couldn't possibly be easier to find, as it just sticks up out of the valley right in the middle of farmland.  This is actually a war memorial, and you can drive to the top, although the entrance was closed when I arrived.

To walk up the road would have taken a bit of time, as it circles around the hill a few times on the way to the top.  Fortunately, I eventually saw a trail that cut straight up, crossing the road multiple times on the way to the "peak".

After reading the various plaques and memorials, I ate my now thawed leftover froozen MacDonalds cheeseburger and headed back down to my car to find Burgi Hill, which was just down the road.